Elmer and Venessa (Burns) Graffis had two sons, Emory and Raymond, also a daughter Eleanor.
Neighbors Viggo and Agnes Kastrup had four daughters, Edith, Inger, Esther and Lily; also two sons: Arne and Viggo Jr.
Even before the war, Raymond had been seeing Edith, and Emory was attracted to Inger. Inger was about three years younger than Emory and still in high school.
By the time she graduated from Laurel High in 1942, Emory had been drafted into the army. Inger took a job in Omaha and Emory was sent to Guadalcanal.
Before they parted, Emory asked her to become his wife when he returned. She said “Yes.”
They wrote back and forth. I have not seen any of their correspondence but in a letter to Raymond and Edith written shortly after he started driving amphibious trucks, Emory wrote: “What are you kids doing waiting on me to lead your way into marriage? I’ve been expecting to get a letter stating that I had a sister-in-law.” In the same letter he wrote: “I’m sure waiting for the day when I make Inger my bed partner.”
In another letter to his grandmother Nellie Burns, Emory wrote: “I imagine Inger will be home for Thanksgiving and I hope you will get to see her. I’ll bet she is getting tired of waiting for me to come back but Uncle Sam thinks it’s better I should stay here.”
Postmarked Oct. 25, 1943, that letter was probably the last Emory ever penned.
Two days later he was dead. A telegram was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Graffis stating that their son had been killed in the line of duty on Oct. 27. No other information was given. Emory’s mother did not see the telegram. She died before it arrived.
She was only 48 years old but had been in bad health for several years.
On Nov. 5, a letter was sent from Adjutant General J.A. Ulio giving a few more details. Emory had fallen overboard from an amphibious truck while unloading a ship half a mile from shore. His body was not recovered.
Why no one saw him go overboard was not explained. But as the amphibious truck company had been working long hours to unload supplies for the New Georgia campaign, it seems possible that Emory may have gone overboard after dark.
Another theory was told to this writer by Jackie (Mrs. Duane) Burns of Grand Island.
Mrs. Burns said that family members believed that Emory’s vision was so poor he should never have been in the service to begin with. Duane and Emory were first cousins.
No matter how he lost his life it was a sad time for the Graffis and Kastrup families.
Elmer had lost his wife and eldest son three days apart. Inger lost her fiancee. “She was devastated,” said Lily Kastrup Vogel in a phone conversation with this writer last week. Now 91 years old, Mrs. Vogel is Inger’s younger sister and the last living child of Viggo and Agnes Kastrup.
A memorial service for Emory was held in the Logan Center United Brethren Church on Sunday, Dec. 12, 1943. The service was conducted under the direction of Pastor E.C. King assisted by the American Legion posts of Laurel and Coleridge.
Elmer Graffis then bought three lots in the Laurel cemetery: one for his wife, one for himself, and one for his son.
Emory’s stone reads: “Pvt. Emory E. 1921-1943. 451st Amph Trk Co. Killed in Line of Duty Guadalcanal.” But the grave is empty. Emory’s body was never recovered and his remains may rest somewhere on the sea bottom off the coast of Guadalcanal — a place he came to detest.
NEXT WEEK: How Inger Kastrup’s life was affected by Emory’s death.